Health and Safety

How to Ensure Your Cat is Rescued From a Fire

Hopefully, the only time you will need to contact a fireman regarding your cat is to get him or her out of a tree. That itself can be enough of a hassle, but at least it is preferable to having a house fire where you have to face significant property damage, as well as fear for your safety and that of your furry friends. Every family knows how important it is to do an occasional fire drill to familiarize everyone in the house with an exit strategy. You’re also aware of the importance of making sure the battery in your fire alarm is changed as necessary and tested to make sure it is working efficiently. But, what you may not always think about is fire safety for your cat.

Although cats are more equipped to avoid injury during a fall then humans or other animals, they are still vulnerable to harm when there is a fire. You’re probably hoping that your cat will jump from a window to a tree and hang on for dear life, but it’s more likely that your cat will end up terrified, hiding somewhere in the house, suffering from smoke inhalation. It is important to rescue all of the humans before focusing on the cats, but if you have a fire safety routine in place, it is relatively easy for humans and animals to get out of the burning building simultaneously.

There are numerous stories about cats who have rescued their owners from fires. This scenario usually begins with the owner asleep and the cat suddenly begins chewing on their feet or nudging their face. The owner, in a sleep like trance, assumes the cat is just being playful or mischievous and may ignore or push the cat away until they also smell the smoke. Too often, people forget to change the batteries in their fire alarms, and these kind of incidents happen. There are a number of cases of cat heroes who have saved their families lives by alerting them to the danger of a house fire. That has always been the best case scenario.

The sad fact is that 40,000 pets are killed in house fires; thousands of which are actually started by the pets themselves. Fire safety involves not only rescuing the cat from the fire that has already started but making sure they don’t cause fires to begin with. Cats are notoriously curious and can easily sweep their tails over or play with something that could catch fire. Consider your candles for instance; you should make sure that all candles are out of the reach of your cats and place them where a cat can’t jump. If you light candles regularly, make sure that you are supervising the premises and ensure that they are kept away from the cat’s access. Also, if you have a fire place, you should keep an eye on your cat when he or she is around the open flame.

Because your cat is covered in fur, it is likely to become a fire hazard itself. Unfortunately, a cat can be quite flammable, especially when their tails explore everything. Many people put their cat’s food and litter box in the kitchen. This is not a good idea; there should be a concern that they could find their way to the gas range and start a fire or burn themselves. Avoid putting tables and chairs too close to the stove. Should your cat find themselves on the table while you are cooking, they could become curious about the meal and hurt themselves. Every cat owner know that felines are highly intelligent creatures and know well enough to stay away from heat. However, kittens may not be so aware of the hazards in the kitchen and may be likely to jump impulsively, especially if they are a bit skittish. You may want to reconsider the kitchen as an appropriate area for your cat’s food; instead, consider putting food and water out on the porch or another area that is free from fire hazards.

When you do a fire drill with your family, include your pets in your plans of escape. If you’ve ever seen the film Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, you may recall the bravery with which Pee Wee Herman rescued all the animals, one by one, from the pet store when it was on fire – even the slimy snakes. You should come up with a plan for each of your animals, big and small. The most logical option for a cat is to carry it in the cat carrier or put in a pouch. Cats are known for being independent and don’t like to be confined. You may have to go through a complicated ritual to get your cat into a carrier and this could be quite dangerous if there is a fire. Practice getting your cat into his carrier over and over again; keep the carrier handy with catnip, or treats as an incentive when you need to move quickly. In an actual fire, your cat is likely to be as confused and nervous as the people around him. There is a significant danger that he might flee if he’s scared and confused. That’s why it is important to do fire drills with your cat regularly.

It is important to know where your cat is when there is an emergency and be able to locate him or her as necessary. Your cat should wear a collar with your information on it; it is also a good idea to have your pet microchipped to help with locating it in the event that it runs away during a fire. Cats have been known to disappear because of traumas such as house fires, or even a fireworks display. If you know how to identify your cat, including all of the information on a microchip, the odds of you being reunited with your cat are about 50% higher with a microchip than if you rely on other signs alone. Share the microchip information with friends, neighbors, and family in case you are injured in the fire and are unable to retrieve your cat immediately.

Fires are frightening for the entire family, but more so for your cat. At the first sign of trouble, your cat may retreat to his favorite hiding place. Unfortunately, this hiding place may be directly in the path of a hot spot that could land your cat in danger. You should train your young children to obey you when there is an emergency and not to go running after your pets themselves. You should also be aware of the places your cat likes to hide. Notice when your cat is startled, where does he or she immediately run? You can be sure that at the first smell of smoke, sound of an alarm, or the site of flames, your cat is likely to run to that same spot. Of course, you are concentrating on making sure you and your family are rescued first but teach other family members who are old enough to handle the emergency to look at places where he or she is likely to go.

Many people trust their neighbors to feed their cats when they are not at home for several days. You should consider leaving the key with your neighbor at all times in case a fire breaks out when you are at work and the cat is trapped inside. Your neighbors might be at work too, but there’s a possibility that they may be home as well. It is better to ere on the side of caution. You may also consider installing an alarm system that alerts emergency services immediately.

You can place stickers on your windows to let fire rescuers know that there are pets inside. These stickers should be prominently displayed on all of the main windows close to the entrances and exits. Today, stickers are durable and adhere to the window much more effectively than they used to. Make sure your window stickers are up-to-date and are replaced when they show signs of peeling or fading.  It is relatively simple to update your information if you adopt additional pets.

The flames themselves are not the most hazardous part of a fire; it is the smoke inhalation. Even a small amount of smoke inhalation can cause health problems that that may require hospitalization. Your pet is likely to be more sensitive to smoke then you are. Once you are sure you are all right, check your entire family and inspect your cat for smoke inhalation. Perhaps you should consider buying cat sized oxygen masks if they are available. Just as human beings should have a medical examination after a fire, you should also take your cat to the veterinarian to rule out any complications, such as bronchitis.

It’s always a good idea to have an emergency kit handy, just in case. This kit should contain any prescription medication your cat takes, or cards with your veterinarian’s phone number and directions to the animal hospital, pictures of your cat in case he is missing, information about your cat’s medical history, towels, and a solution for your cat’s eyes. Keep this kit close to your carrier so you can grab it as you make an exit from the house.

Fire drills should be practiced frequently, especially if you work with children and animals. You can set up the procedure to seem like a fun adventure for the family, but your approach should be systematic and structured. There should be ways of evaluating the fire drill and actually sounding the alarm. Your children and cats need to learn to recognize what the fire alarm sounds like. Ensuring that your neighbors are warned about what you are doing is important so that they aren’t startled and confused. Don’t communicate fear, even pretend fear, during a fire drill or the cat will associate the alarm with something negative and will run away, which will further complicate the rescue in an actual fire. Give your cat a positive association with the sound so she will readily come to you and get into the carrier. Of course, if your cat refuses to comply, you can always grab her and put her in a pouch. However, it is much easier for you to make an escape if you have a willing companion with you.

Naturally, the plan for a fire drill for a two or three story house is different from a plan for a one-story house. The difficulty, in this case, is that you might not know where the cat will be in the event of a fire. Do your fire drill for various scenarios, with the cat upstairs and downstairs. Oftentimes, there is a tendency with fire family drills to always re-create a situation in which everyone is in bed asleep. This may be in part because it is a very common fear for someone to be burned in their bed, but actually at night, when it is pretty certain where everyone is, can be the easiest time as long as everybody wakes up. The difficult times would be during the afternoon after school when people might be upstairs or downstairs. This is one reason why frequency of fire drills is essential to test out a variety of scenarios.

A few meals prior to the fire drill, bring your cat in front of its carrier so it associates food with the carrier. You don’t always need to have your carrier close to the food, but if once in a while you could remind your pet of the association between treats, her food, and the carrier; that will help him or her get in. Once you have warned your neighbors that you are going to do a fire drill, you can sound the alarm and put the food close to the carrier. Do this again and again so that your cat gets the idea that when the fire alarm sounds it should enter the carrier.

Training your cat to respond to the sound of fire alarm by going into the carrier may save your pets life. Many people neglect to do this because they believe the common misconception that cats are not able to be trained. However, Pavlov could’ve done his experiment with the cat as well as a dog, or any other creature – even a white mouse, will respond to food as a stimuli for certain behaviors. Once your cat has realized that there is a connection between the alarm and being fed, you can feel confident that you will be able to get your cat into a carrier in case of emergency. Practice the drill repeatedly at various intervals if you live in a house with more than four; you may want to have a pet carrier on each floor in case the fire starts downstairs and you are forced to exit from the windows. It is important to have a chain ladder you can suspend from the windows so you can climb down in case the fire starts on the ground floor and it is as unsafe to descend the stairs. Make sure that all family members are aware of the routine with the carrier.

If you are not able to locate your cat while the house is burning, don’t despair, there are plenty of opportunities for your cat to run to safety. You may recall fire safety videos that instruct people to stop, drop, and roll. Your cat has an advantage over you; they are always close to the floor. Its small stature may keep it away from smoke and prevent it from inhaling any, although it really depends on the source of the fire and how it started. Also, consider leaving doors and gates open as you leave so that your cat can easily run out since your cat has the added advantage of being able to move swiftly. Its chances of escape may be greater than you expect, even in a building that is engulfed in flames. This is especially true if your cat is accustomed to going out regularly and tends to be a good health. It is important for your health and the health of your children to keep the resiliency of your cat in mind to prevent frantic family members from trying to stay behind looking for the cat. Of course, your own survival and that of your children is the first priority, but it is good to know that cats are short enough and fast enough that odds are good that it will stay safe in a fire. A number of firefighters have reported that they have gone into a home expecting to see nothing remaining and have spied a cat or dog still there, huddled in a corner. This is because animals are low enough to avoid smoke in many cases.

In fact, it might not be you that saves your cat if there is a disaster, but your cat that saves your family. Whether it’s the fact that cats tend to sleep lightly or their keen sense of smell that make them ready for a rescue, there are numerous stories about hero cats who save lives. A 13-year-old tabby, named Baby, who was a calm creature, wasn’t given to running around very much or being hyperactive. The cat’s owners, Josh Ornberg and Letitia Kovalovsky, fell asleep on their couch in their suburban Chicago home. Letitia was particularly tired because she was seven months pregnant with twins. The 13-year-old cat was usually quite sedentary and kept to itself. The cat suddenly woke the couple up as the back bedroom started pouring hot smoke. The home and its contents were destroyed, but everyone made it out alive, all thanks to Baby.

Cats often play with their owners when they are trying to sleep and it’s easy to just roll over and try to ignore it. But, if there’s a danger, these cats can be quite persistent. Schnautzie the cat began batting at the chests of Trudy and Greg Guy who thought the cat was merely wanting to play and was getting on their nerves until they heard a hissing noise that came from a pipe that was leaking deadly fumes into the house. When firefighters arrived in the scene they told them that if the furnace had turned on, which could’ve happened in that rough winter, the house would’ve exploded.

One Thanksgiving Day, firefighters in San Mateo California arrived at a residence to find the entire garage consumed in flames. The people residing at the home explained that there were only three people in that home woke up and escapes the flames. The people there knew the cat was upset about something and at first suspected a break-in. When the people inside discovered the flames, they ran out but the cat stayed inside and was eventually rescued by a firefighter who was able to take it to an emergency clinic for full treatment.

If it isn’t your cat waking you up to alert you to an emergency, it is your job to get your cat ready to go into the pet carrier and exit the house as practiced in fire drills. These drills are essential for saving your family’s lives and the lives of your pets. Don’t give up if your cat doesn’t respond to the first attempt to establish a connection between the fire alarm and food in the carrier. Keep working until your cat has it down, and make sure that you keep carriers and supplies where you know they are in case a fire breaks out. You can never fully prepare for fire, but it is worthwhile to establish a routine and know where things are so you can exit the building in an orderly fashion. Make sure there are stickers on the window to alert firemen that there are pets inside the house, and leave the doors open when exiting so that your cats can escape unless otherwise instructed by a firefighter. Cats can move quickly and are small enough to escape a house fire in many cases; their chances of survival are high, but it is still worthwhile for your cats to be prepared.

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